May 182009

Message from Kerstin Fox, Hibiscus Travel:

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises Discontinue Interpreter Services

Dear Cruise Travelers,

Many of you have enjoyed the marvelous interpreter service that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises provided in the past. Thus, you were able to discover remote destinations, learn about the history and culture, and enjoy the onboard entertainment. Although the ADA does not apply to regions like Europe, Asia, Australia, or South America, the two cruise lines went above and beyond for many years and provided interpreters for all destinations that their ships were sailing to. No other cruise line provided this service to so many destinations so consistently for individuals and groups as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises did. They deserve a lot of praise for doing so.

Recently, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises decided to discontinue interpreter service for cruises that do not start or end or do not have at least one port of call in the U.S. or Canada in the itinerary. That means that there will be no interpreter service for cruises at destinations like Europe, Asia, Australia, or South America in the future unless the cruise starts or ends in the U.S. or Canada like transatlantic sailings.

Frustrated about this decision, I talked to Royal Caribbean’s President & CEO, Adam Goldstein, and went to Royal Caribbean’s office for a meeting to discuss the issue. I was told that the companies have to pay several thousand dollars for each interpreter who will work on a cruise overseas (air, hotel, incidentals, transportation, tips, compensation, interpreter agency fee etc.). The cruise lines feel that they provided a service way above and beyond and did not receive enough recognition for doing so. Therefore, they decided to provide the service only in a scale that is requested by the ADA including Canada and transatlantic sailings if the sailing starts or terminates in the U.S.

After my meeting at Royal Caribbean’s office with no positive outcome regarding the interpreter policy, I sent letters to Adam Goldstein and Dan Hanrahan, President & CEO of Celebrity Cruises. I asked them to reverse their decision and continue to provide interpreters for all their cruises if requested. However, I am only one voice. Since the deaf community is a lot more powerful with several million people in the U.S., I would like to ask you, the deaf travelers, to send a letter to the cruise lines’ CEOs, Adam Goldstein and Dan Hanrahan, to express your dissatisfaction about the policy change. Write a personal letter to the addresses listed below and let them know how important it is for you to have interpreters on all cruises, not only at the destinations that are covered by the ADA. If you do not feel comfortable writing a letter, you can use the two sample letters shown below. Feel free, to change the letters if desired. I hope that you will join and help to make the life for the deaf traveler easier.

If you have a professional travel agent, ask the agent to contact the CEOs and ask for a policy change. Your travel agent should be an advocate for you.


Letter to Royal Caribbean

April 30, 2009

Mr. Adam Goldstein

President & CEO

Royal Caribbean International

1050 Caribbean Way

Miami FL 33132-2096

Dear Mr. Goldstein,

In the past, thousands of deaf people enjoyed the excellent interpreter service provided world wide by Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. Having interpreters on a cruise makes it possible to be treated equally with hearing passengers. Interpreters are for us the key to the hearing world and allow us to enjoy the cruises and the shore excursions as much as the hearing people do. Finally, we had the privilege to understand the tour guides, to learn about the history and culture of foreign countries, to understand the onboard work shops, and to enjoy the nightly entertainment. We were part of a world that respected us despite the fact that our ears are filled with silence. How much we appreciated this outstanding and comprehensive service is reflected in the number of deaf cruise passengers who went on a vacation with your cruise lines year after year. Even an entire ship, the Freedom of the Seas, was chartered for a deaf only cruise.

We, the deaf community, understand that this service has a hefty price tag especially for cruises outside of the U.S. It was so great to know that there are two companies who opened up our silent world to all the fun and excitement of cruising and went above and beyond the ADA by providing interpreter service for all destinations. You did not deprive us from learning what the world has to offer and you helped us to broaden our knowledge. How disappointed were we when we recently learned that this service will no longer be offered by your companies for sailings that do not start or terminate or have at least one port in the U.S. or Canada . Our daily life is full of struggle for our rights anchored in the U.S. legal system such as the ADA . It was so nice that your companies understood our needs and provided the interpreters without having to fight for it every time. With your recent policy change, the world has changed for us again in a negative way. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a deaf person to see what it is like to be left out if you live in a world of silence. It is like sitting in the back of a tour bus while the tour guide is talking in the front of the bus without a microphone. How much will you enjoy the tour if you do not understand anything? Or it is like watching TV without sound. What can you understand? That is exactly what the deaf community is experiencing in daily life.

We, the deaf community, are a group of several million people in the U.S. We would like to ask Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises to continue their marvelous interpreter service for all cruises within and beyond the ADA requirements. We understand that maybe some adjustments have to be done because of the present economical problems in our country. Your companies have always been the leaders in innovation. Royal Caribbean proclaims itself as the Nation of Why Not? So, let the deaf passengers be an equal and respected member of your Nation and reverse the recent decision regarding the interpreter policy.


Kerstin Fox

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– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax